If every partner who engaged in domestic violence showed obvious signs of being abusive from the start, most troubled relationships would end quickly. Unfortunately, many of the red flags of an abusive relationship are subtle and easily missed. Domestic violence can involve physical, sexual and emotional abuse, as well as threats, according to the National Institutes of Health. Early warning signs are usually minor forms of self-centered, controlling and jealous behavior that escalate as time goes on.
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How He Treats You
Pay attention to how a partner treats you early in the relationship. A potential abuser may make decisions for you such as ordering your meal at a restaurant or planning social activities without consulting you, according to an article titled "18 Early Signs During Dating of a Potential Abuser or Batterer" on the website Women Are Safe. He might try to rush the relationship -- such as asking to move in together before you have really gotten to know one another -- and he may pressure you to do things that make you uncomfortable, using words such as, "Everyone else is doing it" or "If you really cared about me you would." A partner who shows early signs of jealousy may also be at risk for domestic violence, particularly if his behavior seems like an overreaction to the situation -- becoming agitated, for example, when you talk to another man or accept a compliment.
How He Treats Others
Watch to see how your partner treats others and you may have a preview of how you will be treated later in the relationship. If he is quick to blame others or becomes upset over trivial mistakes, these can be early signs of domestic violence later on. For example, you might witness road rage or an overblown reaction to a meal not prepared as requested in a restaurant, according to the Women Are Safe article. A partner who treats animals and children badly may also be more likely to become abusive later on in your relationship.
How He Feels About Himself
A partner who needs to put other people down in order to build himself up -- also known as hierarchical self-esteem -- may be more likely to become abusive, says family violence consultant Steven Stosny, in a "Psychology Today" article titled "Are You Dating an Abuser?" A potentially abusive partner may be resentful of others and feel a sense of entitlement. He may feel that the world is unfair and that he deserves special treatment, according to Stosny. For example, he may steal something from the workplace as payback for a perceived injustice or because he feels he deserves it. A potential abuser may also be overly sensitive to criticism, according to the Women Are Safe article.
How He Makes You Feel
Think about how you feel in the relationship. A potentially abusive partner may lead you to believe that he just needs a "good" woman who will treat him right -- making you feel that he needs to be rescued. You might also feel indebted to him because of favors that he has done for you -- favors that you didn't ask for. Think about whether he listens when you talk or seems more interested in turning the conversation back toward himself. If it feels like there is an imbalance of power, you may be with a partner who will become abusive, according to an article titled "Early Warning Signs and the Beginning of an Abusive Relationship" on the website of West Island Women's Shelter. As a way to maintain power in a relationship, abusers often seek partners who come from situations that have left them feeling vulnerable.
REFERENCES & RESOURCES
- National Institutes of Health: Domestic Violence
- Psychology Today: Are You Dating an Abuser?
- Women Are Safe: 18 Early Signs During Dating of a Potential Abuser or Batterer
- West Island Women's Shelter: Early Warning Signs and the Beginning of an Abusive Relationship
- The National Domestic Violence Hotline